The Philippine Navy is upgrading its capabilities at a time of continuing tensions with China over disputed territory in the South China Sea.
In recent weeks, an Indonesian naval shipbuilder started work on two “strategic sealift vessels” that the Philippines is acquiring for more than $87 million and expects within two years, said Commander Lued Lincunad, a navy spokesman.
Each one “will enhance our defense capability and operational capabilities. It has a helipad and can accommodate three choppers at any one time,” Lincunad said. Each can be used for command and control, and each “can house a battalion of the marines” and special operations forces.
The vessels represent the navy’s latest efforts to control a resource-rich and strategically valuable expanse of ocean.
As part of a five-year, $1.8 billion military modernization program, the navy already has acquired several big-ticket items, including two frigates that used to be U.S. Coast Guard cutters. The nearly 50-year-old ships, retrofitted with modern munitions and companion helicopters, have been patrolling the archipelago’s shores for the past two years.